Roundup: gov’t board recommends 77 pct wage hike for Bangladeshi garment workers

DHAKA, (PNA/Xinhua) — A Bangladeshi government board on Monday recommended 5,300 taka (about 68 U.S. dollars) as the minimum monthly wage for the country’s four million garment workers, nearly a 77 percent hike from the existing monthly pay.

In an apparent move to quell ready-made garment (RMG) workers’ violent protests demanding wage hike, the Bangladeshi government in May formed the wage board headed by AK Roy, a judge, to set a fresh minimum wage structure for the garment sector.

Roy made the announcement in a press briefing Monday shortly after the board approved its recommendation for about 77 percent wage hike.

But the country’s garment factory owners Monday rejected the minimum wage fixed by the board. They turned down this decision at a voting procedure.

It was not known immediately whether the workers’ organizations have hailed the board’s recommendation for a nearly 77 percent wage hike.

Bangladesh’s garment workers have long been protesting to demand higher wages and safe working conditions, but their protests have become much more common over the past weeks.

On April 24, five factories collapsed, which killed at least 1, 130 workers. The tragedy revived questions about the commitments of factory owners and their global buyers to providing safe working conditions in the sector.

The sector, which turns out 20 billion U.S. dollars’ worth of exports annually, comprises about 5,000 factories employing more than 4 million workers, 80 percent of whom are women.

The persistent protest reached its peak in September when violence erupted in different areas forcing the authorities to shut the production of over 400 factories in Gazipur and Savar.

Garment Sramik Samannay Parishad, a federation of trade unions in garment sectors, had earlier organized a rally to meet their different demands including raising minimum monthly salary to 8, 000 taka ( about 102.56 U.S. dollars) .

The owners proposed hiking minimum salaries to 3,600 taka (more than 46 U.S. dollars), triggering a wave of violent protests from RMG workers in places in Dhaka and key apparel hubs on the outskirts of the capital city .

The Bangladeshi government in July, 2010, set 3,000 taka (about 38.5 dollars) as the minimum monthly wage for the garment workers, which at that time involved more than 2.5 people.

Thanks to its cheap labor, Bangladesh is now the world’s second largest garments exporter after China, producing global brands for customers around the world. Yet the country’s garment industry has been severely criticized over safety concerns and labor unrest over rock-bottom wages in recent years.